As we all know, the brain is a mighty curious thing. If you doubt this, just consider the latest dream you can recall, and ask yourself, where on earth did that come from? And where, you should all ask, do these recipe ideas come from, week on week? Four years or so ago, when this blog was launched, a good pal suggested I was simply making a rod for my own back. It’s certainly true that when I alight triumphantly on some seasonal classic or other, I do have to check whether I’ve done it before. Thankfully, there are variations on most themes. Today’s recipe came from a chat with my wife about tarte tatin. We have an in-joke about that arising from a particularly stupid comment made by a well known Scottish restaurant reviewer. Send me a fiver and I’ll tell you.

As you probably know it is claimed that this recipe, which is usually made with apples, was invented by accident by the Tatin sisters in their hotel in Lamotte-Beuvron in France just over 100 years ago. A pan of apples was left to cook for too long. One sister had the inspired idea of covering it with pastry, et voilá!

It’s the season for pears too. Over the years, while poaching them, I’ve experimented with various flavourings, rosemary included. We have a huge out of control bush of the stuff in the back garden. Since I started researching this, I discover that James Martin did a similar dish in one of his most recent series. Coincidence, I assure you. He uses cream which, for me, has no place in a tarte tatin.

You can adapt this to suit the size of implement you have at your disposal. This recipe calls for one of a diameter of 25cm. Ideally you would use an oven proof frying pan. If it has a metal handle, you’re fine. Modern pans with non metallic handles may be OK, but don’t make any assumptions. It will take a long time to get rid of the acrid smell of burning plastic if you get it wrong. If you don’t have the right type of pan, you could start the apples on the stove then transfer to another oven dish of the right size. Preheated, of course, but it will be difficult to get the fruit arranged in an attractive pattern. The fruit quantities are approximate. You want the pan completely full. It will look nicer with pear halves, but cut up pieces to fill any gaps. Use sprigs of fresh rosemary – you will want to remove them before putting on the pastry

Finally, a health warning. Please be VERY careful. Burns from caramel are among the worst and most painful ever.

Pear and Rosemary Tarte Tatin

Ingredients (serves 6)

1 375g pack ready made all butter puff pastry; approximately 8 good sized pears, peeled, halved and cored; 110g caster sugar; 110g butter; grated zest of 1 lemon; 2 – 3 sprigs of rosemary.

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Preheat your oven to 190°C/Mark 5. Roll out the pastry to a thickness of a £1 coin (some packs come ready rolled.) Cut a circle just slightly larger than your pan. Keep chilled (the pastry, that is, but you too, I suppose) until you need it. Melt the butter in your pan. Sprinkle over the sugar and remove from the heat. Arrange the fruit neatly, cut side down, in the pan, filling any gaps. Sprinkle with the lemon zest and lay the sprigs of rosemary on top. Put the pan over a medium heat. What happens is that the sugar and butter will start to caramelise. Don’t worry of the caramel bubbles up a little between the fruit pieces. The pears need to become dark. This will probably need about 15 – 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, and take off the rosemary sprigs. Being INCREDIBLY CAREFUL, lay the pastry on top of your pears, which are at the same temperature as a recently erupted volcano, and tuck in the edges. Do not use your fingers for the tucking. (Do you think they’re getting the message? – Ed)

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave for 5 – 10 minutes before tipping upside down on to a serving plate, so that the fruit side is up. Serve with good quality vanilla ice cream.

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